peter costello
Former treasurer Peter Costello

There's very little that Renaissance man Peter Costello can't do, apparently: former federal treasurer, Liberal Party elder, media chairman, Future Fund chairman and now... sociologist.

Via the Nine staff newsletter, Costello has diagnosed the rise of populism around the world as the consequence of central banks holding interest rates down. Low interest rates have "exacerbated this division between people with assets and people without assets ... what’s going on at the moment is also exacerbating a division between savers and borrowers." Having successfully diagnosed the problem, Costello prescribed the cure: deregulation. “I would argue monetary policy has run its course, fiscal policy has run its course, what we have to do now ... is take away some of the handbrakes that are now applying to the economy ... there has been a very big build-up in regulation in this country."

The rise of populism has vexed politicians, economists, business people and sundry commentators the world over in recent years. Some of us have written books about it. Costello's take at least has the refreshing character of novelty. But we confess we're having difficulty following it.